Friday, June 29, 2012

Starsurge, Fae Empowerment, & Other Stuff

The class balance thread on the forums and the recent beta build are providing new goodies to talk about for moonkin. Blizzard apparently has heard the criticism that some people think the moonkin rotation is boring and is taking steps to add more variety. It's also important to note that these changes are intended to be DPS neutral in the long run and we should expect to see nerfs in other areas in the future as well.

Starsurge and Shooting Stars:
* Shooting Stars now has a 50% proc rate, up from 30%.
* Starsurge damage was increased by 30%.
From my PvE perspective I like these changes for several reasons. If you think back to the Cataclysm Beta, Starsurge has really become a shadow of it's former self. It was built to be this powerful spell that felt substantial, but it was nerfed for what most people thought were PvP reasons and then Wrath and Starfire were buffed to make for breaking Solar Cleave. As a result, Starsurge became this nuke with a cooldown that was slightly better then your standard spells. We hit the button because that was the best button to hit at the time but there was no excitement for having it line up correctly or having Shooting Stars proc at the right time. I don't know how this will affect PvP, and frankly I personally don't care. I'm just glad that Blizzard is trying to restore Starsurge as a significant spell.

The change to Shooting Stars is more interesting. It's hard to calculate the exact impact of this, but there are two things we can be sure of. First, it will boost the value of crit which I think we need. Crit has never been an exceptionally strong stat for Moonkin, but until Cataclysm it at least felt like it had a purpose because procced Eclipse and Nature's Grace. In cataclysm the only purpose Crit had was to get it off our stats as quickly as possible either through reforging or finding new gear. Hopefully this change will make crit a more significant stat that can compete with Haste and Mastery.

The second impact of this change is that it actually brings some variety to the moonkin rotation when transitioning between Eclipses. Blizzard has been talking about doing this for a couple of months and suggested things like reintroducing Insect Swarm, adding Astral Communion, and adding Fae Empowerment (more on that later), but all of these ideas were either not implemented or were kind of half baked with regards to changing the moonkin rotation. This is the first change that has a realistic chance of preventing the moonkin rotation from being a long string Starfire or Wrath casts and it's implemented so simply by just changing a proc rate. This is a clear example of how sometimes the simple solutions prove to be the best.
Fae Empowerment:
Fae Empowerment (New) - When you cast Faerie Fire, you gain Lunar Empowerment and Solar Empowerment. Lunar Empowerment Increases the damage of your next 3 Starfires within 18 sec by 20%. Solar Empowerment Increases the damage of your next 3 Wraths within 18 sec by 25%. Druid - Balance Spec.

My first impression of Fae Empowerment wasn't that good. It's an interesting idea, but it has several issues that prevent it from sitting right in my head.

My first concern is that it's too much of a trap. In the Blue Post, Ghostcrawler described Fae Empowerment this way: "Should you choose to ignore it, your DPS will likely be only a few percentage behind someone who uses it optimally." That sounds all well and good, but there is a third category of players that his comment does not address. What about the players who use Fae Empowerment sub optimally, and how does it impact there DPS?

To the inexperienced player, Fae Empowerment looks great on the surface, because casting Faerie Fire can buff 6 spells by 20%-25%. The problem is that Fae Empowerment is that it has a cost that isn't obvious to many players and could potentially reduce the players DPS rather then increasing it. That cost is the Global Cooldown, and it lowers the players DPS in a couple of ways. First, that is a second to 1.5 seconds where you aren't doing any damage since Faerie Fire has no damage of it's own in Moonkin Form. Second, it increases your eclipse transition by the GCD amount and as a result lowers your DoT and Nature's Grace uptimes. These two things may not sound like much, but they can easily drag total DPS down by one or two percent. That is a pretty big gap for a buff on a limited number of spells to make up.

Secondly, I'm very happy that they increased the duration from 15 seconds to 18 seconds. I made a post on Elitist Jerks about the timing needed to maximize Fae Empowerment and it was tight even at high gear levels. To optimize Fae Empowerment you need to cast three Wraths and three Starfires around an Eclipse transition while maintaining the rest of your rotation. That means along with the nukes you also need to cast Moonfire, Starsurge, and Starfall if you are transitioning into Lunar.

The Elitist Jerks post has some tables that detail how long it would take to cast all the things that need casting at various haste levels. Unfortunately my computer is not letting me create those tables in this post, but the summary is even at a high level of haste in a best case scenario getting all of the spells cast in 15 seconds was very tight. In a live situation with lag and other delays, I think it would be impossible. The increase to 18 seconds will make this easier of course, but I would prefer it was even a little longer then that.

Third, there is a fairly high risk of not using all 6 empowerment buffs. I need to test this on a more robust simulator like SimulationCraft, but in my homegrown simulator I was frequently hitting Eclipse early due to Starsurge casts and Euphoria procs and having to skip some of he empowerment buffs or slow down my the eclipse transition.

What is Fae Empowerment's Purpose?

Finally, I'm beginning to wonder if Fae Empowerment is really worth all of this effort. What is it's purpose? What is Blizzard trying to achieve?

The goal of Fae Empowerment seems to be two fold. The first stated by Ghostcrawler on the forums was that it is to give players more "micro level choices." The second is to address a frequent player complaint by breaking up the rotation a little and give the players another button to push. In my opinion it's not succeeding on either level. There is no real choice since the times you want to use FF and Fae Empowerment are very predictable. It also doesn't really add anything to the rotation since it is just one predictable button an eclipse cycle.

I'm sure that Fae Empowerment can be adjusted in such a way that it makes sense to use, and I'm sure that we will see more modifications soon. That said, I personally think that while the moonkin rotation may be a little boring, this version of Fae Empowerment isn't adding a whole lot and may actually be harming DPS.

Other Stuff:
Wild Mushroom: now damages all enemies within 8 yards, up from 6. Now allows 5 mushrooms, up from 3.

A small change, that doesn't appear to be entirely accurate. I tested it out in beta and the range has been increased to 8 yards which is great for us. However, at this point it still only allows us to place 3 mushrooms. In all honesty I would prefer that they increase WMs damage then increase the number of mushrooms we can put down. Having to spend time to put two more mushrooms down in what usually is the same place as the other three seems like a waste.

  • Item - Druid T14 Balance 2P Bonus - Your Starfall deals 20% additional damage.
  • Item - Druid T14 Balance 4P Bonus - Increases the duration of your Moonfire and Sunfire spells by 3 sec.
  • The T14 set bonus have actually been in the files since April, I just never got around to commenting on them in the past. The seem to be fairly standard stuff. It's hard to judge how strong they are at this point since the rotation in a bit of flux, but I'm sure they will be fine.


    lissanna said...

    On the actual beta, we can still only place 3 shrooms for both resto & balance, so I think that may have just been an error by the datamining tools.

    kendro1200 said...

    One suggestion I could offer to Fae Empowerment is to make it a short cooldown ability.
    Just pulling numbers out of a hat, 15 sec cooldown (take it off the gcd), and it'll make your next non-instant nuke instant cast. That could offer some interesting micro choices. When do you save it for movement or do you burn it right away? Should you save it for a SS that's 10 seconds away, or pop it now and because a Shoot Stars proc is most likely going to pop up soon?
    I think these choices are more interesting than how Fae Empowerment is currently set up. No matter how they tweak the numbers the mechanic is kind of a no-brainer. A couple rules are set up and then you follow them, and the rotation stays extremely mechanical.
    Gaming Eclipse for optimized solar cleave fun in fights like Maloriak, Omnitron and Atramedes was fun. Those were real micro level choices, "Did you cast x nuke now, or do you hold off to delay an eclipse?" Those were real micro decisions, and they were fun.

    hibbynana na said...
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